A delayed and revised Top 10 Trial for pole position for the third round of the FIM Endurance World Championship saw Tetsuta Nagashima post a 2m04.934 to take pole position on the #33 Team HRC CBR1000RR-RSP for tomorrow’s 43rd running of the Coca-Cola Suzua 8 Hours whilst YART lead the way for the EWC season-contenders.
Just before the Top 10 Trial was to commence, the organisers changed the Top 10 Trial to a 40-minute Top 10 timed qualifier beginning at 4pm due to weather concerns. Any team rider could ride within this session, and the fastest laps would determine the final grid. The air temperature was 28℃ and track temperature 36℃
For Team HRC, it was Nagashima first to push the Bridgestones, with the pole lap set on his first flying lap, which would prove to be unbeatable for the rest of the session.
“So I’m really happy to that we have achieved the pole position,” said Nagashima. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have the top 10 trial today. But anyway, we’re going to do it’s very good to start from the pole position. So tomorrow we’re going to do a great job.”
Next fastest was another Suzuka-only effort with the #10 Kawasaki Racing Team Suzuka 8H ZX-10R and Jonathan Rea making amends for his FP2 off to set a 2m05.149s late on in the session.
“I was very happy with the lap time,” said Rea. “I got caught out a little bit this morning with the Bridgestone tyre as it’s the first time I’ve ever used their soft tyre. We’ve been working with the race tyre and I underestimated how much grip the soft has in change of direction. I really support the race directors when they changed the Top 10 Trial format because so many riders hadn’t completed one chrono lap, so for me to go into super pole and set one lap would have been very strange. So, instead we had 40 minutes to make the lap time and step by step I understood this soft tyre and you know the lap time was quite good, I made a few mistakes but really happy with second place. Congratulations to Tetsuto as it’s an incredible lap time. My team-mates have been doing a really good job this week and we’ve got a great starting position.”
Leading the charge for the EWC season contenders, it was the #7 YART – Yamaha Official Team EWC with all three riders going out in the session as allowed by the revised format, and all three posting times in the 2m05s.
It was Karel Hanika last to post his fast time and his was the fastest too, with a 2m05.769s from Marvin Fritz on a 2m05.776s and Niccolò Canape with a 2m05.981s, illustrating just how well matched the YART riders are.
“I’m pretty happy to sit here next to these guys so congratulations to Honda and Kawasaki,” said Hanika. “First of all, I should not have been running today as I had a pretty nasty crash yesterday so the Top 10 Trial should have been for my team-mates. To stand here today with the fastest lap on the Yamaha is pretty good, but the most important is that all of us are fast. Coming to this race we knew that we were lacking a bit of pace in the testing compared to these guys, so that is what we were working on this week. We can feel the improvements in the dry conditions and even in the wet. Probably we need to improve in the mix conditions, but hopefully we can be good tomorrow.”
Second quickest of the regulars was the #5 FCC TSR CBR1000RR-R Fireblade with Josh Hook posting a 2m06.204s, whilst the #37 BMW Motorrad M1000RR qualified 9th with Markus Reiterberger setting a 2m06.897s.
Unfortunately though for the F.C.C. TSR squad, Gino Rea was taken to hospital following a serious accident He received initial treatment at the track before being transported to hospital by helicopter. We await further updates.
Taking the Le Mans-style running start at 11h30 local time (04h30 CET) on Sunday 7 August, riders race through the heat of the day, through sunset and into early evening with the chequered flag scheduled to be waved to the winner of this prestigious race at 19h30.
Weather conditions are predicted to be changeable which promises a challenging day for all 45 teams who are on the provisional starting grid. Wise tyre and refuelling strategies will count as much as the three riders’ personal on-track performances.
Kayo Sports will show the racing live on Sunday within Australia from 1215 (AEST) and it will also be on Fox Sports 507.
The Suzuka 8 Hours is back on the FIM EWC calendar in 2022 having not taken place since 2019 due to the global health crisis. Operated by Honda-owned Mobilityland, Suzuka features a unique figure-of-eight layout and presents a considerable challenge for riders thanks to its wide variety of corners. Opened initially as a test track for the Japanese motor giant in 1962, the venue hosted the first edition of the famous Suzuka 8 Hours motorbike race in 1978, nine years before staging its first Japanese Formula One Grand Prix. The Suzuka 8 Hours has been a popular feature on the EWC calendar and a key fixture on the international calendar since with leading grand prix motorcycle racers taking part – and winning – over the years.
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